Irish broadcaster Gay Byrne changed his audience’s lives, mourners at his funeral heard.
The former presenter of Ireland’s flagship television show died earlier this week aged 85 following a long illness.
RTE’s former director general Bob Collins paid tribute to his “profoundly human” colleague who put viewers at ease with his informal style on The Late Late Show and was a natural and empathetic listener.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar joined Mr Byrne’s wife Kathleen and other members of the broadcaster’s family at funeral Mass in Dublin.
Mr Collins said: “The audience knew instinctively that here was the genuine article.
“Here was one who spoke to and for them.
“Here was one who could and did change their lives.
“He made a difference in our world and for that our society will be forever in his debt.”
The former host of RTE’s popular Late Late Show and father-of-two had been undergoing treatment for cancer.
He died in Howth, a pretty seaside town in Co Dublin, surrounded by his family.
A host of well-known names attended his funeral in St Mary’s Pro Cathedral in Dublin city centre.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin was among clerics presiding at the service.
He alluded to one of his predecessors, the austere and influential Archbishop Charles McQuaid, who decades ago raised concerns with the head of RTE at the time about one of Mr Byrne’s then-risque shows.
Mr Collins said television in the 1960s was revolutionary and his friend discerned what was coming, but noted that broadcasting required judgment.
“We are in the realm of the profoundly human and that perhaps more than anything else is what marks Gay Byrne as special.
“For that too we have reason to be thankful.”
He said Mr Byrne was courteous at all times and professional to his fingertips.
He had a good sense of humour and engaged with his audiences, at times in side-splittingly funny fashion, Mr Collins added.
He was involved in broadcasting for 37 years and more recently supported children’s health care and road safety.
Mr Collins paid tribute to the star’s resilience and talent, empathy and patience, and said his audiences knew he was genuine and spoke to and for them.
“Gay showed us to ourselves and he had the ability to reach out to a vast audience by speaking to each person individually.
“I firmly believe that public service broadcasting at its best is our community’s conversation with itself.
“If that is right then Gay Byrne is first among those we have to thank for the ability to talk and to listen to ourselves.”